Translate

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream



Last weekend I got the best gift ever - an ice cream maker. Wait, it's better than an ice cream maker, it's an automatic ice cream maker. I'm in love with it in a slightly unhealthy way, because I have made 5 different kinds of ice cream since last Sunday (Sunday a week ago, not Sunday two days ago...)! My first  experiment was with green tea ice cream from Annie's Eats. I love this ice cream, but nobody else around liked it because they aren't green tea fans. That was ok since there was more for me!

Now I seriously had no idea that you could make ice cream at home without eggs, because the recipes I had seen online use egg yolks in them. So after making the green tea ice cream, I looked in the Cuisinart recipe booklet and saw that fancy ice cream recipes use egg yolk, but basic recipes just use cream, sugar, whole milk, vanilla and other add-ins. I got to town with the ice cream making.

I made chocolate-mint ice cream with cocoa nibs. I made white chocolate ice cream with walnut pieces. I made cherry vanilla ice cream with sweet black cherries. And, I made vanilla. Good ole fashion vanilla and it was amazing! I'll be sharing that recipe today and some of the others will be posted at another time.

I guess I missed out on National Ice Cream month (today is the last day), but every day is an ice cream day - right? If you don't have an ice cream maker, buy one. You'll love it & you'll love the recipe for this vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!


Recipe for Basic Vanilla Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS:
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with beans scraped out
1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract (use a high-quality vanilla)
A dash of salt
1/2 cup of whole milk, well-chilled
1/3 cup + 2 tsp. of granulated sugar
1 cup of heavy whipping cream, well-chilled

DIRECTIONS:
Scape the vanilla beans into a very small bowl. Pour the vanilla extract over the vanilla beans and mix with a spoon. Add in the dash of salt. Set aside.

Pour the milk into a medium bowl. Add in the sugar, and then beat mixture with an electric hand mixer on low speed for 1 minute, or until sugar is fully dissolved. Stir in the vanilla mixture. Pour in the heavy cream, and then beat again on the lowest speed for about 10 - 15 seconds. Cover bowl and put in fridge for about an hour.

Once mixture has chilled, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer directions. After mixture has turned into ice cream (with my new ice cream maker, it takes about 25 minutes), scrape into a tupperware, cover and put in freezer to set. Enjoy!


NOTE: 
If you have never used an automatic ice cream maker before, please make sure to read over the instruction booklet first before using! Don't make the same mistake I did - I made the mixture before even freezing the ice cream bowl...

*I think I'm going to make some cantaloupe sorbet today!*

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jicama Salad with Mango



Jicama is a fun word to say (so is Francisco). For so long I pronounced it "yickama" or "jicama" (with the sound of the j), until one night when I ate at a yummy Spanish/Latin restaurant in Annapolis with Greg and some friends. My friend and I ordered and shared a dish with jicama. My friend and I told the waitress how much we liked the "yickama," and we kept repeating the mispronunciation until finally the waitress corrected us! It is pronounced with an 'h' instead of a 'j.'

Jicama is also known as a Mexican potato and it is an ingredient found in latin cooking. I love the texture and taste of jicama, especially in salads. The other night my mom asked me and Greg to join the rest of the family at the new Wegman's in Columbia for dinner. At first I wasn't too excited about the idea, until I got online and read the menu. I saw the jicama salad on the online menu, and I knew I needed to have some. The salad did not disappoint. Cool, crisp, refreshing, and light - it had jicama, pineapple, and cucumber in a tasty lime dressing.

As we were leaving the store, I bought a jicama (my first jicama purchase ever)! I found the recipe in the Wegman's catalogue and I reproduced it with some changes. I didn't feel like dealing with a pineapple, so I used mango. I also added some carrots and added a bit of red pepper flakes to the dressing, then topped with whole raw cashews. Greg likened it to a papaya salad, but better. The salad was sweet but not too sweet, spicy but not too spicy - it was just right!

Recipe for Jicama Salad with Mango
INGREDIENTS:
For the salad:
1 medium jicama, peeled and grated with largest grate on a box grater
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin 1-inch slices
1 small carrot, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, then peeled into strips with a vegetable peeler
1 medium mango, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Whole raw cashews or cashew pieces, for sprinkling on each salad
For the dressing:
3 limes, juiced
Zest of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 Tbsp. of honey
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes (more or less as desired)
1/2 tsp. of sweet chili sauce (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Make the dressing first. In a smallish bowl, combine the lime juice, lime zest, honey, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and sweet chili sauce. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.

Add the grated jicama to a large bowl. Pour dressing over the jicama and toss well. Cover bowl and put in the fridge for an hour or more. About 15 - 20 minutes before serving, add in the cubed mango, sliced cucumber, and carrot strips. Toss together and then put bowl back in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Serve salad on individual dishes and top each dish with whole raw cashews or cashew pieces.

Recipe Adapted from: Wegmans Catalogue 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ICE CREAM CONE CUPCAKES with CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM

Have you ever had cake, in a cone? If you haven't, you are missing out! These ice cream cone cupcakes are one of my all-time favorite treats. First off, they are really cute and fun to eat. Second, the frosting on these cupcakes is absolutely incredible!

When I was a kid in elementary school, I definitely wasn't the coolest kid around (but who was?). However, right before the winter holiday I became instantly cool, because I would bring in birthday cupcakes to share. The kids in my class would look forward to the birthday celebration, because I always came in with the best treats - like these ice cream cone cupcakes!

These cupcakes are pretty easy to make. The cake batter is simply from a box - I use a super moist vanilla cake mix. After making the batter, you just fill up the cones and bake like cupcakes. The frosting also requires barely any time to make. I LOVE this frosting. It seriously has the consistency of soft serve ice cream and it melts in your mouth (not in your hands).

Last weekend I was very happy to have the excuse to make these ice cream cone cupcakes. On Saturday, my husband and I took the young women's group from our church out on the sailboat. I served them the cupcakes before we left to get soaked in the rain that was going to clear up "any minute" all day long! On Sunday, my sister-in-law, youngest niece, parents, sister, brother-in-law, and 2 wild & crazy nephews came for a visit. The kids thought the dessert was extra special! Even Ellie liked the cupcakes (she is the harsh food critic)! Ben, the chocoholic, was in heaven. I sent a few cupcakes back with the family, and apparently on the 40-minute car ride back to my parents place Ben talked about the cupcakes the entire time. He said that the next day he wanted the cupcake with the "purple polka dot."

I am sure you and everyone else you know will love this fun and tasty treat! Enjoy!

Ben LOVED the frosting! 

Recipe for Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

INGREDIENTS:
For the ice cream cone cupcakes:
24 ice cream cone cups
1 box of super moist vanilla cake mix
Ingredients to add to cake mix (according to box directions)

For the frosting:
2 7-oz containers of marshmallow fluff
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup of chocolate chips, melted and cooled
2/3 cup of cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. of vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. of water

DIRECTIONS:
For the ice cream cone cupcakes:
Make the batter according to package directions. Spoon batter into ice cream cone cups, filling them 2/3 - 3/4 full with batter. Place cones on a baking sheet, or inside a ice cream cone cup holder and place the holders on top of the baking sheet. Bake ice cream cone cupcakes according to package directions. When cupcakes are finished baking, remove from oven to cool completely.
For the chocolate buttercream frosting:
Once the ice cream cone cupcakes are completely cooled and you are ready to frost, make the frosting. Put the chocolate chips into a small saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until chocolate chips are fully melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and marshmallow fluff together, using a hand mixer on medium-low speed. Beat until mixture is fluffy. Add in the cocoa powder, cooled chocolate, vanilla, and water. Beat until well incorporated.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, frost with the buttercream. Use a spoon to scoop up generous amounts of frosting onto the cones, and then spread. Top with sprinkles, if desired. Store cupcakes in fridge.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Recipe Adapted from: Martha Stewart

NOTE:
Although the ice cream cone cakes and frosting are very easy to make, they are a bit difficult to store. One problem is that they have a tendency to fall over easily. I'd suggest storing/transporting them in baking cups. I couldn't find the silicone baking cups, but this nifty ice cream cone cupcake rack will also do the trick!

*Another bonus of ice cream cone cupcakes - no paper trash from cupcake liners*

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Easy Peanut Butter & Banana Frozen Yogurt


This summer has been a pretty hot one. It started out super nice, and then at the end of June, Maryland got hit with a massive heat wave. A couple of weekends ago, my sister-in-law, nieces, and nephew came for a quick visit. It was close to 100 degrees, but Greg & everyone decided to go out sailing (they are crazy). Well, I decided to lock myself in the house with the ACs running, and I made a cool treat for the kids to enjoy later. I also made some more a couple days ago, since I liked the recipe so much.

I found this recipe in Self Magazine. It's supposed to be healthy, and even though my version is still much healthier than ice cream, I pretty much un-healthified it (by using non-reduced fat yogurt & adding extra peanut butter)! The original recipe calls for chocolate chips, but I sweetened up the combo by adding honey and leaving out the chocolate chips.

This frozen yogurt recipe does not require the use of an ice cream maker, which was good for me because at the time I did not have one (but I just got one & I'm so excited to use it). All you need is a food processor and a freezer-safe metal bowl. The older kids really loved the yogurt (especially because  I topped their bowls off with lots of marshmallow fluff...). Ellie (7), however, did not like the yogurt, but she really doesn't like anything!

Greg & I also love this frozen yogurt treat. Greg finished off the photo/display bowl quickly after I took pictures, even though I told him a butterfly had landed in the bowl! We like it with marshmallow fluff, a  couple drops of honey, and honey-roasted peanuts. I'm sure it would taste great with chocolate sauce too!


Recipe for Easy Peanut Butter & Banana Frozen Yogurt

Looks like butterflies like frozen yogurt too!
INGREDIENTS:
2  7 oz. containers of regular Greek Yogurt, frozen
1 large banana, frozen & peel removed
2 Tbsp. of creamy peanut butter
2 - 3 Tbsp. of honey
Your choice of toppings (marshmallow fluff, chocolate sauce, honey roasted peanuts...)

DIRECTIONS:
To freeze the yogurt, simply put the containers in the freezer (or, you can scoop the yogurt into ice cube trays, and freeze in the trays). Once yogurt and banana are frozen remove from freezer. Carefully peel the banana with a knife. Put banana on a cutting board and cut off the two ends, then stand it up on the cutting board and hold with one hand as you use the other hand to carefully slice off the entire peel. Cut banana in fourths, and then put into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.

Open yogurt containers (make sure to peel off the thin paper seal on top of the yogurt, if it has one). Use your hands to loosen the frozen yogurt from the container, then use force to get them out on to a plate or a cutting board. Once frozen yogurt blocks are out, put into the processor (or put yogurt from ice cube trays into processor) Add the peanut butter and honey.

Pulse the processor for very short periods of time in intervals, scraping down the bowl as needed. Allow yogurt to melt a bit, and continue to pulse. Once yogurt blocks have decreased in size, run the processor in 45 second intervals, scraping as necessary.

Once mixture is smooth, transfer it to a freezer safe metal bowl and cover with a lid. Freeze until the mixture sets a bit, about 20 minutes. Serve. If keeping in freezer, make sure to take out several minutes ahead of time before serving, so it is easy to scoop.

When ready to serve, scoop in individual dishes & put on your favorite toppings. Enjoy.

Recipe Adapted from: Self Magazine

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Carrot & Steel Cut Oat Rolls

A few weeks ago while I was spending lots of time up at my parents' house, I was able to go through  many fun cookbooks. My mom found several volumes of "The Pleasures of Cooking" cookbooks, which feature only recipes that use the Cuisinart food processor. Carl Sontheimer, the man who introduced the Cuisinart into the US (we thank him for this), owned the magazine and also was a recipe contributor.

These cookbooks were definitely ahead of their times. The recipes were published in the early to mid-80s, and they included ingredients that weren't even available at most grocery chain stores until fairly recently.

One of the recipes I came across was for these carrot and oat rolls. Now, these rolls use steel cut oats. Ok, when did you first hear about steel cut oats? I know that most people in the 80s didn't know about or use steel cut oats in their cooking, but I could be wrong!

I made these rolls & they are delicious. They don't use any butter or oil, and just a tad of sugar, but yet they still taste so sweet and buttery. The rolls are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven, cut in half with a couple small pats of butter and a tiny drizzle of honey. But they also taste really good plain, served along with dinner. You could even use them as a sandwich roll - they'd be good with brie, honey, and apple slices.

You might notice that my rolls aren't perfectly shaped. It's true, I'm a total dough novice. It took me a very long time to overcome my fear of working with dough, and although I overcame it, I still have lots of room for improvement. Hopefully (probably) yours will be prettier than mine! Enjoy.

Recipe for Carrot & Steel Cut Oat Rolls

INGREDIENTS:
8 ounces of peeled baby carrots, cut in half
1/4 cup of steel cut oats
1 Tbsp. of dark brown sugar (firmly packed), 
plus more for sprinkling
1 package of active dry yeast
1 tsp. of salt
3 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

DIRECTIONS:
Fit a food processor with a metal blade. Put the 1/4 cup steel cut oats in the bowl of the processor. 

Put the carrots in a large saucepan and just barely cover with water. Put the water over medium heat and simmer the carrots until they are cooked through (about 25 minutes or so). Once carrots finish cooking, pour 3/4 cup of the hot water from the cooked carrots into a liquid glass measuring cup. Drain the remaining water. Put the cooked carrots into the bowl of the food processor with the steel cut oats. Process the carrots and oats together for several seconds (5 - 10 seconds), scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. 

When the water in the measuring cup registers 110 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, stir in the dark brown sugar and the yeast. 

Put the flour and salt in the bowl with the carrots and oats. Turn on the motor, and pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. When the dough cleans the sides of the bowl, let the motor run for about 40 more seconds. 

Spray a large metal bowl lightly with baking spray and dust it with a little bit of flour. Transfer the dough into the bowl (the dough will feel really sticky). Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a lid, and then leave in a warm place to rise. Let rise for about an hour. 

Once dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly floured surface. Divide into equal pieces (about 16) and shape each piece into a roll. Place on a baking sheet that has been lightly oiled (you can use baking spray). Cover the rolls with lightly oiled saran wrap, and let rise for another 45 minutes.

When dough has about doubled in size, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If desired, spray tops of rolls with a little baking spray or pat with a little butter. Sprinkle on a bit of dark brown sugar. Bake the rolls for 12 minutes at 400 degrees. 

These rolls are best when they are fresh out of the oven. Sadly, they lose some of their delicious flavor and moistness after a couple days of storing. I'd recommend making them for dinner guests or a large & hungry family! 

Recipe Source: The Pleasures of Cooking, Volume VIII No. 2, 1985



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sweet, Spicy & Super Yummy Marinated Shrimp


I'm sure glad I found this photo of the sweet and spicy shrimp that was served at my wedding in June 2008. I took pictures of the shrimp yesterday, but my pics really didn't do it any justice. I didn't want to photograph it outside in natural light because it was SO hot yesterday. Also, my photographer/husband was at work, so it was me behind the camera....

The marinated shrimp is super yummy. This is another recipe that has been passed down to me from my mother. I have served this shrimp at wedding showers and baby showers, and it is always a hit. It was also a hit at the wedding! 

It's a great appetizer, but it also serves well as a meal if you add your favorite veggies or other sides. We had it last night and the night before with Caribbean-style corn and carrot and oat rolls. YUM. 

I love the flavor of this shrimp. Greg says it's the best shrimp dish he has ever had, because it is marinated so well that it doesn't even taste like seafood! The marinated shrimp is really easy to make and requires barely any prep time - but since it has to marinate, it needs to be made several hours ahead of time before serving. But, once it finishes marinating, you're done - all you need to do is sprinkle with some salt and pepper! Enjoy.

Recipe for Sweet, Spicy & Super Yummy Marinated Shrimp

INGREDIENTS:
2 pounds of easy peel & deveined raw frozen shrimp
1 large lemon, sliced and divided
1 cup of red wine vinegar
1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped, seeded & deveined (leave seeds for more heat)
1 1/2 Tbsp. of dried onion flakes
1 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/3 cup of granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Bring a large  pot of water to boil. Once it boils, add in half of the lemon slices and some sprinkles of Old Bay seasoning. Add in the shrimp and cook according to package directions.

Once the shrimp is finished cooking, remove the lemon slices and drain the shrimp in a colander. Immediately rinse with very cold water. Set aside.

While shrimp is cooling, make the marinade. Add the red wine vinegar, garlic powder, onion flakes, jalapeno slices, remaining lemon slices, and sugar to a small pot. Put the pot over medium heat and stir occasionally until the mixture becomes hot and sugar fully dissolves, about 3 - 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside to cool.

While marinade is cooling, shell the shrimp. Make sure excess water is drained from the shrimp before shelling. Put the fully shelled shrimp into a large bowl.

Remove the lemon slices from the marinade. Pour the marinade over the shrimp in the large bowl. Add in the cilantro. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss everything together. Cover the bowl with a lid, shake the bowl, and put into the fridge for at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the shrimp with a little bit of extra salt and pepper. Remove the jalapeno pepper pieces if desired (I of course left them in). Serve as an appetizer or as a meal with your favorite sides.

Recipe Adapted from: All Recipes

The marinated shrimp reminded me of my wedding day!
My mom made the wedding cake + several more cakes...


NOTE:
If the shrimp is served at a party where guests will be serving themselves, make sure to bring it out immediately before the food line opens. If it needs to sit out for more than 15 minutes, put it on ice. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Who Wants More Truffles? (Recipe for Sweet Cream & Walnut Truffles)



I really love truffles. I also really love to make truffles, and I sometimes find myself brainstorming new truffle recipes...

When Greg and I sailed to St. Michaels back in the beginning of June, we visited a cute cupcake and ice cream shop. I ordered sweet cream ice cream because it's my favorite, and as we were walking around I started thinking about how delicious a sweet cream truffle would be. I thought about how I would make them, and I decided that adding walnuts to the mix would be a good idea.

A few days after we got home, I tried out the truffle recipe. I dipped the truffles in milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate - because I really wasn't sure which one would taste the best. In my opinion, the dark came in first, with the white not far behind, and the milk taking third place. However, they all tasted really yummy to me.

I tested the truffles out on a few of my friends, and in the end, the dark won. But, there are no rules here - so dip them in your favorite kind of chocolate! I just made another batch last night with the dark chocolate.

The filling for the truffles is a bit like a cream cheese frosting. You will get a bit messy when you shape the truffles, so have an ample supply of paper towels close by. These truffles are sweet, indulgent, and decadent. Someone said that they kind of taste like a chocolate covered cherry, but better. You'll only need to eat one in order to fulfill any dessert cravings after dinner! Enjoy.


Recipe for Sweet Cream & Walnut Truffles

INGREDIENTS:
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, but still cool
5 oz. of regular cream cheese
1 Tbsp. of almond extract
1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts
9 - 10 oz of baking chocolate, coarsely chopped (white, milk, or dark). I used SCHARFFEN BERGER.
Walnut pieces, for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
In a bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, almond extract, and vanilla extract with an electric hand mixer on medium-low speed until the mixture is fluffy (about 1 - 2 minutes). Add in the powdered sugar, and beat on low speed until well incorporated. Pour in the walnut pieces, and use a spoon to fold them into the mixture.  Cover the bowl with a lid and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

After chilling the mixture, line a freezer-safe container with parchment paper. Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up the sweet cream mixture, and roughly shape into 3/4-inch to 1-inch balls with your hands (it will be messy - have paper towels nearby)! You can dust your hands with powdered sugar before shaping each one to reduce the amount of stickiness. Place each ball on the prepared container. Cover the container with foil, and place in freezer for a few hours, overnight if needed.

Put chopped chocolate in a pot. Prepare a double boiler by filling it 1/4 full with water and place the double boiler over medium heat. Once water begins to lightly simmer and steam forms, place the pot with chocolate on top of the boiler. Stir almost constantly until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Once chocolate is almost melted, remove balls from freezer. Prepare a baking pan or plate with parchment paper. Using a spoon, drop one or two balls at a time in the chocolate and fully coat. Place on prepared pan or plate, and if using the walnut pieces, immediately place a walnut piece on top of the truffle before dipping the next one.  When each one is dipped, place the pan/plate in the fridge so chocolate can harden, about 30 minutes. Store truffles in fridge until ready to serve. ENJOY!

Makes 1 1/2 - 2 dozen truffles. 


**Original Recipe**

Looking for more truffle recipes? Check out the recipes for cookie dough truffles & coconut truffles! 

Roasted Cherry Brownies


Ever since I started my cooking blog, I've gotten emails from people that include recipes that they think would be good for me to share (especially from my mom)! My sister told me that she made these roasted cherry brownies from Annie's Eats, and she said they were really good. Well, since I love Annie's website and because I love cherries and brownies, I decided to try out the recipe. I'm sure glad that I did!

Ok, I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that these brownies are healthy. They don't have too much sugar (compared to other brownie recipes), and the brownies are  loaded with antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. One 9.7 oz bar of SCHARFFEN BERGER bittersweet chocolate also has 50% of your daily iron intake. And let's not forget about all the health benefits you'll get from the cherries...

I made these brownies on Saturday to bring to a cookout, but I accidentally left them at home. Who does that? After enjoying a few myself, I sent the rest of them in with Greg to take to work today. He said they disappeared from the lunchroom very quickly! Enjoy.

Recipe for Roasted Cherry Brownies
I ate one before the picture - sorry! 

INGREDIENTS:
For the roasted cherries:
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
For the brownies:
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
7 oz. of high quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (such as SCHARFFEN BERGER)
3 Tbsp. of cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:
For the roasted cherries:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the cherries on the baking sheet, flesh side up. Sprinkle the cherries evenly with the 2 Tbsp. sugar, and then toss gently to coat. Place the pan on the top rack of the oven, and roast for 10 - 12 minutes. Remove cherries from oven and cool. Turn off oven.
For the brownies:
Prepare a double boiler filled 1/4 full with water. Place it over medium heat. Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a pot. Once the boiler begins to barely simmer and steam, place the pot on top of the boiler and stir a few times until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Stir in the cocoa powder and mix until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until well incorporated. Stir in the chocolate and butter mixture and beat on low until well combined.  Add in the flour, and stir until just incorporated. Gently fold in the roasted cherries.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9"x9" pan with foil and spray it with a little bit of baking spray. Pour brownie batter into the prepared pan, and spread evenly. Place pan in middle rack of oven. Bake for 35 minutes.

Place pan on a cooling rack and cool brownies completely, at least 2 hours. Once cooled, remove brownies out of pan by lifting up on the foil. Place brownies on a cutting board and cut into evenly-sized squares.

Store brownies in the fridge in an airtight container.

Source: Annie's Eats
This cherry pitter turned out to be very handy! 

A great tool for pitting the cherries - a cherry pitter! My mother gave me one of these to me several months ago. My husband and I had joked "what the heck do we need a cherry pitter for?" Well, it sure came through when I made the brownies. Thanks, mom!

NOTE:
Cherries are in season right now. They taste great & they are on sale - I got mine for $1.99/lb. Score! 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

CPK-Style Quinoa Salad with Arugula


A good friend of mine and I get together for lunch twice a year at the California Pizza Kitchen. We get together to celebrate our birthdays, but of course we usually go months after one of us has a birthday (darn busy schedules)! Holly had a birthday at the end of April, and we got around to going out just last week. The CPK has phenomenal salads. Sometimes I think it should change its name to the California Salad Kitchen, but I guess that really doesn't have the same type of ring to it!

We usually get the Miso salad and share it, but they recently removed crab from the salad, and that was one of my favorite parts. So I tried something new last week off of their "new menu items" list. I ordered an amazingly good quinoa salad with arugula and other tasty treats tossed in a vinaigrette. I decided right then and there that I had to try to recreate it in my kitchen. I recreated it last night - and the results were good!

I think many people are probably familiar with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), but if not you can learn more about this superfood here. You'll feel great while eating this salad, since quinoa is very high in fiber and protein. You'll also enjoy the delicious taste of the salad...

Greg told me that it tasted exactly like something you would eat at a really nice restaurant. So, I guess you could pretty much say that I accomplished my goal! Now I just wish that it would be that easy to accomplish so many of my other goals...

I hope you enjoy the quinoa salad recipe!

Recipe for CPK-Style Quinoa Salad
INGREDIENTS:
For the salad:
1/2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
8 sun dried tomatoes in oil, cut small; plus 1 tsp. of oil from the sun dried tomatoes
3 ounces of feta cheese, cut into small chunks
1 1/2 cups of baby arugula leaves
1 bunch of asparagus, stalks cut off, cut into 1 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2 Tbsp. of toasted pine nuts

For the dressing:
1/3 cup of Extra-Virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
1/8 tsp. of dried oregano leaves
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Wash the quinoa and then cook according to package directions. Once quinoa finishes cooking, drain any excess water. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

While quinoa is cooling, prepare the dressing. In a smallish bowl, mix together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, oregano, and pepper. Mix well.

Once quinoa has cooled, add the sun dried tomatoes, sun dried tomato oil, feta cheese, and dressing to the bowl. Toss well to  coat. Cover bowl and put into the fridge for about 30 - 45 minutes.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to serve salad, steam the asparagus. Put asparagus in a large saucepan and cover just barely with water. Put over medium heat and bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and simmer for 3 - 5 minutes. Asparagus is done when you can prick it through with a fork, but still tender. Don't let it get too soft. Once asparagus is finished cooking, drain the water and transfer the asparagus to a plate to cool.

While the asparagus is cooling, toast the pine nuts.

When ready to serve the salad, take bowl out of the fridge. Mix in the 1 1/2 cups of baby arugula and toss. Divide the salad between 3 - 4 serving plates. Top each plate with asparagus and toasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

NOTE:
The CPK quinoa salad is made with a champagne vinaigrette. Since I didn't have any champagne vinegar, I made the red wine vinaigrette. I think it worked just as well! I also omitted the red onions from the recipe.



Friday, July 13, 2012

Limey-Mint Cooler with Lemon


Have you ever had a virgin mojito (or a regular one)? They are SO good! I had several limes that were on the verge of going bad, so I decided to do something about it. A mojito was kind of what I was going for, and although it didn't taste exactly like one, it came pretty darn close. It also tasted pretty darn good! 

When we visited with our friends last weekend, they sent us home with oregano, parsley, and chocolate mint (yes, chocolate mint) from their garden. I decided to use the limes with the chocolate mint to make this refreshing beverage. I happened to have a couple of lemons that also needed to be used, so I added lemon juice to the drink too.

Now, don't fret if you don't have any chocolate mint leaves, regular mint leaves will work just as well! But it is really fun to say that I made something with chocolate mint...

Recipe for Limey-Mint Cooler with Lemon

INGREDIENTS:
For the simple mint syrup:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
15 chocolate mint leaves (or regular mint leaves)
For the drink: 
1 1/2 cups of lime juice
Juice of 2 lemons
4 - 6 cups chilled water (depending on your sweetness preference)
Simple mint syrup

DIRECTIONS:
For the simple mint syrup:
Add one cup of water and one cup of sugar to a small pot. Add in the mint leaves. Put the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir occasionally until the sugar has fully dissolved, then remove from heat. Pour syrup into a heat-safe liquid measuring cup and set aside to cool.
For the drink:
Add the lime juice, lemon juice, cooled simple mint syrup, and desired amount of chilled water to a drink pitcher. Stir with a wooden spoon and then put in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 6 - 8 servings. Enjoy!

NOTE: 
For a more authentic virgin mojito taste, top your drink off with some sparkling water (I didn't have any on hand, so that's why I didn't).

*Looking more more tasty drink recipes? Try out the Bubbly Basil Lemonade or Mango Lassi with Coconut!*


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Key Lime Pie Tarts


"Taquitos, truffles, tarts, and more." After tonight, the description of my blog will actually be official! I already have the taquito recipe and the truffle recipes posted, and now the tart recipe.

I have been wanting to make these tarts for a long time now, but something kept holding me back. I would go to make them, and I would have every ingredient except for one. I'd drive to the corner store, and they wouldn't carry the one ingredient I needed, so I had to wait until I made it out to the grocery store.  I finally had all of the ingredients to make the tarts and then we got hit with an atrocious heat wave that lasted for ELEVEN days. For eleven days I did not turn on my oven or stovetop. I did go through baking withdrawal (or was it sugar withdrawal)???

Today was the perfect day for making the tarts. I came across this recipe a few years ago in the form of a pie, and I've made the pie several times. It's delicious. I have a friend who lived in Miami for several years who considers herself a "key lime pie snob," and she declared that the pie was one of the best that she has ever had. I especially love the topping used in this key lime pie recipe. It is not the typical super sweet whipped cream - it is a mixture of sour cream, powdered sugar, and lime zest. It is just slightly sweet, totally smooth, and it is the perfect contrast to the tartness of the filling and the sweetness of the crust. Yum.

Although I love the pie, it always was a little tough to cut and it made quite the mess. Tarts were the perfect solution!

I made 5 tarts today. Greg told me I couldn't eat any of them or give any of them away because he wants to have them all to himself. Hmm, good luck with that Greg!

Recipe for Key Lime Pie Tarts

INGREDIENTS:
For the crust:
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 egg
1/2 cup of key lime juice or regular lime juice
1 can of sweetened condensed milk

For the topping:
1 cup of sour cream
2 Tbsp. of powdered sugar
1 tsp. of lime zest, plus more for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:
For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
With a spoon, gently mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Place five 4.75-inch tart pans onto a baking sheet. Use your hands to press the crumb mixture firmly onto the bottoms and sides of the pans. Place the baking sheet with the tart pans on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. After baking, remove from oven and cool pans to room temperature. Turn off oven.
For the filling:
In a smallish mixing bowl, beat together the egg, lime juice, and condensed milk until ingredients are very well incorporated. Place lime mixture in fridge until tart pans are cool enough to fill. Once tart pans are ready, remove lime mixture from fridge. Using a ladle, put one scoop of lime mixture into each tart pan. Add more lime mixture to each pan if there is any leftover.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place baking sheet with tart pans back in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the lime mixture does not jiggle when pans are gently shook. Immediately place the baking sheet with the tart pans in the fridge, and cool for at least 2 hours.
For the topping:
Once tarts have cooled for at least 2 hours, make the topping. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the sour cream, powdered sugar, and lime zest. Adjust based on your taste (either adding more sugar or zest or sour cream). Drop 2 - 3 tablespoons of topping onto the top of each tart, and spread evenly. Add extra lime zest on top, if desired. Place tarts back in fridge for a few more minutes to allow the topping to set.
Last summer I visited the Oregon Coast to hang out with my good friend, Krista. 
We hosted a dessert party & made mini key lime tarts! So cute.

Recipe adapted from: The Food Network, Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Spinach Salad with Sweet Poppyseed Dressing


Yesterday a good friend called me up to invite me and Greg over to his place for an impromptu dinner.  Luckily our calendar was open, so we were able to spend time hanging out with Joseph, Alyssa, and their adorable 18-month old son.

We ate some really great food - Joseph made some amazing pork chops, scrumptious corn on the cob, and his famous mashed potatoes and famous rolls (he swears the rolls were homemade, but they looked and tasted so perfect that I have my doubts)! We ate belgian waffles piled high with  berries and whipped cream for dessert. So yummy!

I volunteered to bring a salad, and I made one that I have been wanting to make for quite some time. This salad is another favorite of mine that my mom used to make. The recipe for the salad and dressing comes from the Cooking Light magazine. Since I didn't have any of the light items in my house, the salad dressing really wasn't too light. But, it was still DELICIOUS! Of course if you want to make the light version, you can use light mayo in place of real mayo and skim milk in place of 2% or whole.

I love the salad because it is almost like eating a dessert, but you still get the health benefits from the spinach, fruit, and nuts. I'll be making the salad again tomorrow when my sister and brother-in-law visit with the kids. I hope they will enjoy it as much as we did!

Recipe for Spinach Salad with Sweet Poppyseed Dressing

INGREDIENTS:
For the salad:
1 5-oz box of baby spinach, washed and dried
1 16-oz container of strawberries, washed, stemmed, and sliced thin
1/2 cup of seedless red grapes, washed, stemmed, and chopped in half
2 - 3 Tbsp. of walnut halves

For the dressing:
1 Tbsp. of white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. of poppy seeds
3 Tbsp. of skim, 2 %, or whole milk
1/4 cup of mayonnaise (regular or light)

DIRECTIONS:
Make the dressing first. In a mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, poppy seeds, milk, and mayonnaise. Use a wire whisk to stir well, and mix until ingredients are well incorporated. Cover bowl and store in fridge until ready to use.
Put the spinach, strawberries, grapes, and walnuts into a salad bowl. Put dressing on top and toss; or dish up salad in individual bowls and let everyone drizzle on their own desired amount of dressing. Makes about 4 servings (dressing makes more than 4 servings, and can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to two days). Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: My Recipes, Originally from Cooking Light June 2003
***It looks like Md will finally see some relief from the heat this week! I'm excited that I will be able to use my oven again - I've been going through baking withdrawal.  Hope to post the key lime tart recipe on Monday or Tuesday - it's one of my favorites!***

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tomatillo & Corn Salsa


Ever since I was introduced to homemade tomatillo salsa, I have been craving more tomatillo recipes! I recently learned how wonderful tomatillo salsa is, thanks to the sweet potato taco recipe that Paladar restaurant shared with me. 

Let me tell you a bit about the tomatillo. The tomatillo belongs to the tomato family. It looks like a small green tomato, but it has a paper husk around it. It has an amazing flavor, with subtle hints of lemon, apple, and herbs. Yummy! 

Corn pairs very nicely with the flavors of the tomatillo. If you get fresh corn, it is in season right now, so it is full of sweetness. I enjoyed this salsa with some grilled quesadillas, and I bet it would also taste great with your favorite tortilla chips. Enjoy! 

Recipe for Tomatillo & Corn Salsa
INGREDIENTS:
4 medium tomatillos, husks removed
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, stems and all
2 jalapeƱo peppers, seeded and deveined
Corn kernels, from 6 cooked ears of corn (or from one 10-oz package of frozen sweet corn, cooked)
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Put the tomatillos, cilantro, and jalapeƱos in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it reaches a salsa-like consistency. Pour into a serving bowl.

If using the frozen corn, cook according to package directions. Drain completely and cool.
If using fresh corn, follow this tutorial on how to get corn off the cob; if needed.

Add the corn into the tomatillo mixture, and squeeze in the lime juice. Mix, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serve with quesadillas, tortilla chips, or anything else that you can think of! 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blueberry Buckle


Well, I'm sure some of you were impacted by the storm this past Friday night, and if you weren't - you're lucky! I was so scared during the storm that I hid under the pool table until Greg got home from shooting a wedding. I seriously thought my house was going to cave in!

My house didn't get destroyed, but we did lose power. Since my parents only live about 40 minutes from us and they didn't lose power, we drove up to their place on Saturday. For the past few days, I have been hanging out in the home that I grew up in. My mother and I have gone through cookbooks, and we were supposed to make that beautiful blueberry buckle together that you see in the picture. Well, I guess my mom got tired of waiting for me yesterday, because she made the buckle on her own. And I'm sharing her recipe!

The smell of the blueberry buckle coming from my mother's oven yesterday made me feel rather nostalgic. It is something that she often made when I was a child, and it transports me to my more carefree days. I love the taste of the lemon and blueberry together in this moist cake-like treat. The blueberry buckle is great for breakfast or dessert, and it goes well with a glass of milk. Although it didn't invoke any childhood memories for Greg, he said he really liked the flavor and texture of the blueberry buckle.

I know that the blueberry buckle will definitely be something that I start making on a regular basis in my home. I can't wait to get some blueberries from my local farmers' market to make this buckle and other fun blueberry-inspired recipes. Yum!

Recipe for Blueberry Buckle

INGREDIENTS:
For the cake -
2 cups of fresh blueberries, rinsed
1/3 cup of 2% milk
1 tsp. of fresh lemon juice
Zest from 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 stick of unsalted butter (4 Tbsp), softened at room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
For the glaze -
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. of fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:
For the cake -
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan and set aside. In a glass measuring cup, combine the milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, butter, vanilla, and egg. Beat with a handheld electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Continue beating while gradually adding in the milk and lemon mixture.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter and milk mixture, and mix on low speed with the mixer until it is mixed in well. Use a spoon to fold in the blueberries to the batter.
Pour and spread the batter in to the prepared baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
For the glaze -
Make the glaze about 5 minutes before the cake is finished baking. Combine the butter, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat. Stir while the mixture is cooking, and cook until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

When the cake is done baking, pour the glaze over the top. Return the cake to the oven and broil until the glaze bubbles, and make sure to watch to avoid over browning. Cool the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled, cut in to 16 equal-sized pieces. Eat up & enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: GE Cooking With a Food Processor, 1978

NOTE: What is a buckle? What is a cobbler? What is a crisp? I know they are all good, but did you know this?